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British Airways apologises to judge over luggage complaint

British Airways says it has apologised to a High Court judge who told how his luggage had gone astray when he was overseeing a case involving the airline.

Mr Justice Peter Smith spelled out the problems he encountered after flying to Florence with his wife in early July in a written ruling on the case, which involves allegations of air cargo charges being fixed but has yet to reach its final stages.

The judge said in the ruling, published in late July, that he had decided to pass the case to another judge.

But he said his ''investigation'' into what happened to his luggage would carry on ''in a private capacity''.

He said he would pursue that investigation ''with the vigour for which I am known''.

A British Airways spokeswoman said: "We have apologised for the delayed baggage and offered a full explanation."

Watchdog the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office says it is looking into Mr Justice Smith's conduct in connection with the case.

The judge, based in London, told in the ruling how he had booked return tickets with British Airways but the flight had been provided by Vueling.

He said the flight arrived at Gatwick and passengers were told their luggage had been ''left behind'' in Italy without explanation.

Mr Justice Smith said his and his wife's luggage arrived ''without warning'' some days later.

He said he did not know how a plane ''departs with all of the passengers' luggage left behind'' unless it was a ''deliberate decision''.

The judge said he had seen the ''distress'' other passengers suffered.

He said he contacted British Airways' customer relations department then emailed the chief executive after being ''rebuffed''.

Mr Justice Smith said he made British Airways aware that he had a personal problem and was overseeing litigation involving the company.

The judge said he also raised the luggage issue with lawyers representing British Airways in the case.

He said the legal team ''deliberately refused to inquire'' into the luggage problem, instead ''praying in aid a desire to separate what they call a private dispute from this judicial dispute''.

Mr Justice Smith said in the ruling that he was ''12 days from the flight'' and had ''no explanation''.

''The situation is that I do not know how a plane departs with all of the passengers' luggage left behind, unless that is a deliberate decision,'' said the judge in the ruling.

''British Airways must know what the position is. I am promised some form of answer.''

He added: ''If those simple questions cannot be answered in 12 days with expedition, I really feel for other people who have the misfortune to fly with British Airways.''

The judge said he believed that passengers' luggage had been ''deliberately bumped off for a more profitable cargo''.

Mr Justice Smith said he would no longer oversee the case because he thought the luggage issue would be a distraction which could hamper the progress of the litigation.

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